ByPeter Flynn, writer at
An advocate for understanding the phenomenological wonder of the moving image. Also Tremors is the best.
Peter Flynn

Sherlock is an intensely structured show with feature length episodes and levels of intricacy to the characters' actions that boggle the mind. Yet, it's insanely popular, and has come to embody what Sherlock Holmes is to a modern audience. It's pretty amazing that we no longer use the hat and pipe to signify Sherlock anymore, and that's down to the way this show just captures the essence of Arthur Conan Doyle's creation.

Going into Sherlock Season 4, hot on the tails of Moriarty's "miss me?" head scratcher return, we can be fairly sure that logic and plausibility aren't exactly things that drive the series. The fandom is more interested in amazing feats of intelligence than in getting a hard hitting of real crime investigation. It almost seems as if the show takes place in a world where time and space could break down just to let cool things happen. Why not then, for Season 4, allow Sherlock to veer into the supernatural realms it so often toys with? Well, here's a very good reason why.

Sherlock and the supernatural don't mix

In their attempt to ride the success of Guy Richie's Sherlock Holmes, the Asylum created this mock-buster, adding dinosaurs and robots to the story, because of course that's how you up the ante! The result is a mess that feels as insincere as it does detached from the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes' line "you still don't believe in monsters?" is extra nonsensical, as it goes against the character entirely. Many of the original stories were about Sherlock debunking sensational stories of ghosts and monsters, in Conan Doyle's proud effort to reference Scooby-Doo.

Hound of the Baskervilles
Hound of the Baskervilles

So it seems that Sherlock just wouldn't mix with supernatural elements, but I think it unfair that a few botched efforts can ruin all future endeavors. Just because someone did a subject matter badly doesn't mean they now own it. Seeing Cumberbatch's Sherlock encounter things the world can't explain, and getting around concepts he's unfamiliar with would be hugely entertaining.

Obviously, any supernatural elements would have to be a bit more nuanced than dinosaurs and dragons. Telepathy, time travel, and immortality would all be fascinating concepts for Sherlock Season 4 to deal with. "But it would make the show unbelievable!" you might say. Well...

The Sherlock Christmas special is set in the 19th century

Sherlock and John as seen in the past
Sherlock and John as seen in the past

The upcoming Sherlock christmas special is no doubt a one-off; a bit of fun that toys with the roots of the character, but it also exhibits Steven Moffat's and Mark Gatiss' willingness to experiment with what they've created. Many of Conan Doyle's original stories deal with Sherlock having to explain things that don't quite seem of this world, and the author himself had an interest in the occult. Would it not be a cool way to honor the sensationalism of the Victorian age to pitch Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman against something truly otherworldly?

Supernatural detective fiction has worked before!

Death Note exhibits supernatural detectives!
Death Note exhibits supernatural detectives!

Detective work hinges on applying logic and rationality to determine an indisputable truth. As Sherlock's now famous adage goes "when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth". You might think this shows the supernatural and detective stories as incompatible, but in fact, it invites an entirely new kind of thought.

Stories of detectives battling the unexplainable are nothing new, and some of them are challenging and entertaining in ways we could never have imagined. The stories of Thomas Carnacki, David Lynch's Twin Peaks, and the excellent manga, Death Note all exhibit supernatural powers challenging brilliant minds further rather than defeating them. Supernatural elements don't ruin detectives, they force them to up their game, and that's exactly something that Sherlock Season 4 could benefit from.

Or they could stay normal.
Or they could stay normal.

What are your thoughts? Would you prefer Sherlock Season 4 to stay grounded or to get a little magical? If so, how would the show runners make it work? Tell us everything in a response post, and let's get the Sherlock fandom talking!


Could Sherlock Season 4 mix with the supernatural?


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